November 3, 2017
Whitewashing Practices when the Akin House was Built
The featured image of whitewashed wall boards is located in a part of the house that may have been a small bedroom or birthing room, off the kitchen/gathering room. By the 20th century, this wall and others had been covered with a variety of materials, the last being wood paneling popular in many homes in the 1960s and 1970s. The original whitewashed boards and beams are a wonder to behold, transporting you to a different time.
We like to consult with Historic New England (HNE) https://www.historicnewengland.org on all matters related to historic properties. Sally Zimmerman, Senior Preservation Services Manager, has provided invaluable assistance and resources on the many questions we’ve posed about the Akin House, looking for similarities to other 18th century houses. To members of HNE’S Historic Homeowner’s program, the wealth of information available from their collections and experience in managing a variety of historic properties across New England is second to none.
The ancient techniques of whitewashing are no exception and the Akin House offers very fine examples.
Sally Zimmerman of HNE has shared a pretty straightforward tutorial http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2014/07/whitewash-recipe-barn-coop.html which explains the formula and process clearly, and in some detail.
This enlightening exchange with HNE has reinforced our plans to reveal the whitewashed walls, post and beams in situ at the Akin House. We are also considering a whitewash treatment of the newly installed post and beams. There will be no mistaking the original with the new and will fulfill our mission to educate on historic techniques that continue to serve a purpose today.
Once our preservation and restoration work is completed, DHPT plans to host a “Tom Sawyer” whitewashing how-to event at the Akin House in partnership with HNE, deemed of great interest to historic homeowners. Twenty-first century owners still use whitewash on barns and chicken coops, as well as whitewashing contemporary wall, ceiling, and furniture, introducing the historic to modern homes.